I was talking with a potential client the other day about pay-per-click (PPC). After, several discussions on budget, demand and typical PPC topics, he asked me a question that I have heard hundreds of times.

“What kind of traffic increase should I expect to see based on that budget?” That’s the wrong question.

My response is generally the same, “Oh, did you want to increase traffic or revenue?”

ppc questions


I know it may seem obvious in 2011 to say revenue is more important than traffic, but many are still missing it. It happens with many of my new clients. When I take over a paid search campaign on life-support, I often scale down the PPC traffic. In fact, it’s usually my first move.

Why Decrease Traffic?
I have found most PPC heartaches arrive from unwanted traffic. Too many accounts are not well-optimized. Because of this they are bringing in tons of unwanted, paid traffic. This means they are paying for irrelevant clicks and uninterested visitors. The first step is to stop the bleeding.

In many cases, that savings alone has paid for my services. Once the trash is filtered out, then we start expanding. We take the “good” keywords and expand. This takes us from surviving to thriving.

The Right Questions
If, for the sake of argument, we agree that asking about traffic is not the correct question, what is the correct question? To turn the tables on the question, I often ask the client variations of the following:
“What would be a good return-on-ad-spend?”
“What is a new lead worth to you?”
“How much is a paid customer worth?”

These are not questions I can answer. I can give them all sorts of data on traffic, CPC, conversion rates, etc. All very important data. I can also convert that traffic into revenue, but the heart of all this comes down to basic business sense. How much are you willing to spend on a guaranteed customer? How much are you willing to spend on a strong lead?

Whatever that price point is, we can find it with PPC? The value is there. Once you establish that price point, the rest falls into place with pay-per-click.

Pay-per-click is a wonderful marketing channel. However, the right questions are needed to find the right answers.

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3 Responses to “That is the Wrong Question”

  1. John,

    This is a great post! You are absolutely right. It is nice to see Paid Search professionals like yourself properly educating and setting correct expectations for clients.

    I do have one question for you though…do you really think the value of PPC is always there for every client?

  2. Kayden,

    Thanks for the comments.

    Always? It’s hard to say “always”. In fact, it’s safe to say it’s not always to the case.

    But I would say, if people are looking for the brand or the products, then it’s hard to justify not showing up in search.

    If a well-targeted paid search campaign is not working, then I would question whether any other marketing is working. That leads to much bigger questions like the quality of the product, price point, website conversion problems, etc. They are all problems that PPC cannot fix. Point being, if the value of PPC cannot be found, then there is a problem. The solution is to fix the problem, then go back to PPC.

    That being said, there are two possible scenarios when PPC may not work.

    1- No Demand. If no one is searching for the product or brand, then it’s not going to do much good. PPC only takes advantage of the current demand. It does not generate demand. However, low-demand often equals low cost and high conversion. So, why not try?

    2- Too Much Demand. High demand often leads to more competition. More competition in PPC leads to higher cost. That often results in being too expensive to result in a respectable return-on-ad-spend. In those cases, before “giving up”, I first look to: longer-tails, more targeted keywords, geographic targets, remarketing, and other precision marketing tactics.

  3. There is a huge difference between traffic and traffic that will convert. Obviously, traffic that will convert should be the goal. A more targeted PPC campaign will lead to more targeted traffic.